Sunday, Nov. 9, marks the 25th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall cracked and Communist East Germany and its Kremlin overseers silently acknowledged Cold War defeat.
The Wall’s fall mattered for everyone who understood the Cold War’s stakes and risks. The stakes were freedom versus tyranny. The Cold War risks in Western Europe were manifold, but they included escalation from a conventional firefight to global thermonuclear war.
Which is why I stress joy and relief. Those were the emotions that flooded me on Nov. 9, 1989, as I saw video of East and West Berliners clasping hands and weeping. Where were the border guards? Berliners said the East German border police had disappeared — they had refused to shoot. Then the crowd surged. Within a couple of hours, guitars replaced Kalashnikovs. I recall TV footage (the reporter said he was live in East Berlin) of a gleeful young man whacking the Wall with a sledgehammer.